The lateral resolution obtained by conventional optical microscopy is limited by diffraction. However, as early as 1928, Synge1 suggested a method of enhancing the resolution by detection of the near field above the sample with a very small (~50 nm) aperture. Several different techniques succeeded in breaking the resolution limit with visible light, the most successful the use of a tapered optical-fiber probe.2 These developments led to the birth of a new microscopy: near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM). We have adopted an interferometric-microscope scheme used in the reflection configuration.3 In our NSOM configuration, which is schematically shown in Fig. 1, an adiabatically tapered, uncoated fiber tip is used both to illuminate the sample surface and to collect the reflected light. Evanescent coupling between the tip of the fiber and surface is strongest near the apex of the tip and allows resolution substantially below the diffraction limit. The present approach permits the imaging of samples that are either transparent or opaque with subwavelength resolution.

© 1995 Optical Society of America

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